President Obama has signed an emergency declaration that will allow federal aid to ease the drinking water crisis in Flint, MI after the tap water supply became contaminated when city officials made the switch from the Detroit water system to the Flint River while a pipeline to Lake Huron is being built. Unfortunately, because there wasn’t adequate treatment for the corrosive water, lead from old pipes in homes and schools was able to seep into the system affecting 99,000 city residents. Higher levels of lead have been detected in children there.
The White House also stated that FEMA will now coordinate all disaster relief efforts to “alleviate the hardship suffered by the population there,” including providing water filters, cartridges and other items for 3-months. The National Guard, meanwhile, has been distributing free water filters and supplies to residents. Flint will also be able to get up to $5 million in direct funding, although the state will have to match 25%, and additional funds can be made available via an act of Congress if necessary.
Although Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had asked for emergency and disaster declarations earlier, legal complications regarding the fact that disaster declaration requests are generally based on events such as natural disasters, floods, fires or explosions delayed earlier action. Despite this, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders called for Snyder to resign for his administration’s failure to deal with a lead-poisoning crisis that has sickened thousands of children in Flint, Michigan.
“There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign,” Sanders stated in a press release Saturday.
In the meantime, the Associated Press reported that the United States Justice Department is helping the EPA investigate the crisis and State Attorney General Bill Schuette has opened his own investigation as to whether any environmental laws were broken, as well as possible official misconduct.
Lead poisoning can result in serious mental and physical development in children, as well as kidney problems in adults. Complications may include: Abdominal pain and cramping; Aggressive behavior; Anemia; Constipation; Difficulty sleeping; Headaches; Hearing loss; Irritability; Loss of previous developmental skills; Low appetite and energy; and reduced sensations, not to mention fertility problems in both adult men and women, as well as miscarriages. Extremely high levels of lead may cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma.